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Nigeria Not Ripe For Electronic, Diaspora Voting — INEC, Senate

During a meeting with the Executive Committee members of the Nigerian Community in Ethiopia, on Tuesday in Addis Ababa, president Muhammadu Buhari said, he was not against the right of Nigerians in Diaspora participating during elections by voting.

Nigeria Not Ripe For Electronic, Diaspora Voting — INEC, Senate

The president however noted that it was the National Assembly that should pass the relevant laws to give a legal backing to Diaspora voting.

Reacting, the Senate on Friday listed certain arrangements that must be in place before it could come up with necessary legislation that would enable Nigerians who are resident abroad to participate in future general elections in the country.

According to them, the current situation in the country regarding telecommunications system was not conducive for it to come up with a law that would legalise electronic voting in the country.

Senator Ajibola Basiru, Chairman, Senate Committee on the Diaspora Affairs said,  neither he nor his colleagues was against the proposed progressive proposals.

Adding that, since both the Diaspora voting and electronic voting were intertwined, necessary precautions needed to be taken to avoid negative implication.

He said;

There are so many things that are involved in Diaspora voting. It is not just enough to say that we are going to do diaspora voting.

it is not as if we are opposed to diaposra voting as a parliament but there are so many challenges and issues that we have to be resolved first.

First,  we need to have the acurate data of Nigerians that constitute Diaspora. We need to know their population and who is qualified to be a Nigerian in Diaspora.

the local elections in the country are usually confronted with numerous challenges especially when few numbers of votes are needed to determine the winner of an election, particularly at the state levels.

For instance the Sokoto governorship election where the margin between the winner and the runner-up was very slim. Who will be the beneficiary of the votes from the Diaspora especially when the winner would be determined by the votes from the diaspora?

We also have to determine who constitute the diaspora. Are they only Nigerians in Europe,  America and Asia or are we also going to recognise Nigerians who are living in the African countries?

There are speculations that the population of Nigerians in Sudan, Niger, and Chad alone are running into millions. We also have Nigerians residing in other African countries. So, will all those millions of Nigerians there be allowed to vote under the diaspora voting?

Another issue to determine is that, is it only those who  genuinely emigrate and legitimately living in those country that would be regarded as diaspora? Are we talking about the documented and non documented Nigerians that are living abroad?

Now, because of the nature of our elections, in which of the elections would the Nigerians in Diaspora vote? For instance, we talk about the local government election. Will the Disporans vote in such elections?  How are we going to determine the local government they are voting for?

Will they also vote in the National and state assembly elections?  How are we going to determine the constituency or the lawmakers they are voting for? Is there any machinery in place to determine that? The answer is No!

In the governorship election, are they going to vote according to their state of origin? The fact is that we don’t even have any arrangement or records in place to determine that, at least for now.

So, it is not just enough to say we are legislating on Diaspora voting but we have to find a way to address the serious issues that could hinder the process before coming up with any legislation that would give it a legal backing.

Also reacting, the Independent National Electoral Commission has ruled out diaspora voting in the 2023 general election, saying it does not have constitutional backing.

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According to the commission, it would go with the provisions of the law, said only persons registered in Nigeria at the time for registration and who tuned up at the appropriate polling units could vote.

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Osaze Oluwole – Uzzi, INEC Director of Voter Education and Publicity, in an interview said, electronic voting was not feasible in 2023 because it had not been part of Nigerian law.

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He said;

INEC will go with what the law stipulates. For now, only those registered in Nigeria at the time of registration and who turn up at the appropriate polling unit can vote. Until this constitutional provision is amended, we cannot talk of diaspora voting.

Electronic voting isn’t part of our law and isn’t envisaged even in the Electoral Amendment Bill before the National Assembly.

Several countries permit diaspora or out-of-country voting. A few allow electronic but most don’t

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